“Music for Pieces of Wood” by Steve Reich
Performed by Third Coast Percussion
with special guest Matthew Duvall of eighth blackbird
ABOUT THE PIECE:
Music for Pieces of Wood, is a fine example of how something of interest can be made with only basic elements. Pitch is involved in the tuning of the claves, but after the piece is launched, that parameter fades more to the background. To understand the piece, imagine listening to a kaleidoscope. A pattern is established, then it shifts as with the click of the kaleidoscope. There are 58 shifts of pattern within a general 10 minute time frame. Three general sections comprise the overall form. Each section employs an additive progession to build density and is linked to the neighboring section by the underlying quarter note laid down by the first clave player.
“Music for Pieces of Wood grows out of the same roots as Clapping Music: a desire to make music with the simplest possible instruments. The claves, or cylindrical pieces of hard wood, used here were selected for their particular pitches (A, B, C-sharp, D-sharp, and D-sharp an octave above), and for their resonant timbre. This piece is one of the loudest I have ever composed, but uses no amplification whatsoever. The rhythmic structure is based entirely on the process of rhythmic “build-ups” or the substitution of beats for rests, and is in three sections of decreasing pattern length: 6/4, 4/4, 3/4.”
– Steve Reich